All education authorities and managers of grant aided schools in Scotland are under a duty to comply with the Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020 (“the 2020 Regulations”).
The aim of the 2020 Regulations is to ensure children and young people are offered balanced and nutritious food and drink, including meals, which contain an appropriate amount of energy and nutrients to support healthy growth and development.
The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2021 (“the 2021 Regulations”) amends regulation 2 of the 2020 Regulations to recognise that in very limited circumstances, where disruption to the school food supply chain occurs, it may not be possible for education authorities and managers of grant aided schools, despite their best efforts, to procure fully compliant products and therefore comply with the 2020 Regulations.
This guidance is designed to accompany the amendment made by the 2021 Regulations and provide clarity about expectations on education authorities and managers of grant aided schools should they find themselves in a position where they are unable to comply with the 2020 Regulations as a direct result of unavoidable school food supply chain disruption.
Actions that education authorities and managers of grant aided schools can take where usual school food and drink supply chain is disrupted
The overarching aim of school food and drink policy continues to be the provision of balanced and nutritious food, drink and meals to children and young people to support their healthy growth and development.
The 2020 Regulations are flexible enough to allow for adaptations to be made to menus to address fluctuations in product availability without compromising the ability to comply with the standards. This continues to be the expectation on education authorities and managers of grant aided schools and as such all reasonable steps should be taken to continue to comply in full with the 2020 Regulations.
Where education authorities or managers of grant aided schools cannot, despite best efforts, procure food and drink which complies with the standards set out in the 2020 Regulations the amendment made by the 2021 Regulations can be relied on. However, food which is not compliant with the 2020 Regulations should only be provided where all other action has failed and should be for as short a time as necessary with the aim of returning to full compliance as quickly as possible. With this in mind each change implemented under this step should be kept under review and rectified as soon as a compliant product becomes available.
The 2020 Regs are designed to keep salt, sugar, fat and saturated fats to an appropriate level of provision. As such the overarching aim, when dealing with unavailability of usual items or equivalent alternatives, should be to finding a substitute which is as close as possible to the standards set out in the 2020 Regulations.
In the circumstances where no close alternatives are available, the best possible provision should be chosen to maintain as balanced and nutritious overall provision as possible.
When using a substitute product that does not comply with the requirements of the 2020 Regulations, consideration should be given to whether menu redesign could compensate for the loss of a particular nutrient, for example by using beans to add more fibre to a meal which uses bread with a lower fibre content.
Any change implemented under this step should be kept under review and rectified as soon as a compliant product becomes available.
When considering whether it is possible to rely on the amendment made by the 2021 Regulations, the following principles should be considered:
- is the amendment being relied upon on in circumstances where compliant products cannot be procured due to unexpected and unavoidable school food supply chain disruption? The amendment cannot, for example, be relied on where alternative compliant products are available but you are choosing to procure a substitute product which does not meet the 2020 Regulations for other reasons
- has all reasonable action been taken to procure an alternative fully compliant product? For example, has support been sought from Scotland Excel to access other local suppliers?
- has all reasonable action been taken to adapt menus to avoid the need to use the unavailable products? For example, frozen fruit could be used as an alternative to tinned fruit in syrup where tinned fruit in juice is not currently available
- despite best efforts, do you have no other reasonable option but to provide a substitute product which does not meet the standards set out in the 2020 Regulations? For example using lower fibre bread where no other bread containing the required 3g of AOAC fibre per 100g can be procured
- has consideration been given to minimising the effect on the health and wellbeing of children and young people accessing school food, drink and meals of using substitute products which do not meet the 2020 Regulations? For example, where bread containing less than 3g of AOAC fibre per 100g is used in a meal, could that meal be adapted to include another fibre source, such as beans, which would mean that the meal still contains the required 6g of AOAC fibre?
- when choosing substitute products, has consideration been given to minimising salt, fat, saturated fat and sugar content?
- when providing meals, has consideration first been given to using an alternative compliant product in a meal instead of using a close substitute for an unavailable product? For example where fresh red meat is not available, could poultry, vegetables or legumes be used instead of a processed red meat product. This recognises the Government’s commitment to using fresh, sustainable produce and reducing our reliance on processed foods wherever possible. Where an additional processed meat product is used it should remain within the weekly amount set for primary and secondary provision unless there is clear justification for not doing
- has consideration been given to the effect any changes to the menu might have on children and young people suffering from allergies or other medical conditions such as diabetes?
In those circumstances it would be expected that where possible parents/carers are alerted to the change and where this is not possible (for example where it has been necessary to make a change on the day due to a full delivery not being received) that the school has appropriate arrangements in place to support children and young people as they make choices from a menu which has been changed at short notice.
How long the amendment made by the 2021 Regulations has effect
The amendment will be in place for as short a time as necessary. It does not contain a phasing out provision but it will be kept under constant review and removed as soon as conditions allow. In all likelihood this will be with minimal notice and no transitional provision will be made.
With this in mind, education authorities and managers of grant aided schools will want to give careful consideration to contract terms and conditions when procuring alternative compliant products or substitute products which do not meet the 2020 Regulations. Focusing on securing alternatives or substitutes as close as possible to the original product within existing procurement frameworks or under short term or flexible contracts may be prudent.
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